As educators we should be diligent in our compliance with copyright law. If we don’t practice ethical behavior, how can we expect our students to do so? It is a very complex area, often confusing but we should be giving it our best shot.
The copying of materials is one of the basic rights given to the copyright holder. This is an area that is easy for educators to infringe upon. Yes, fair use does give us more leeway than others, but it does not give us a blanket right to copy whatever we want.
Today, once a creative work is expressed in a tangible format, it is automatically granted copyright; so the lack of the copyright symbol means nothing. This is very important to remember when you are dealing with items on the Internet. Works with Creative Commons Licenses have some copy restrictions waived but what these waivers are, depends on the CC License they have been granted.
Items in the public domain may be used freely – this typically happens as a work ages – most works in the US published before 1923 are in the public domain. Some newer works may be, but there are more questions that must be answered before you know. People can and do voluntarily put their work in the public domain; but you must find notice of this.
I found a chart (permission granted to make copies for teachersJ) that lists general guidelines for educators. Everyone will get a hard copy of this in their box before the week is out. The URL is listed at the bottom in case you prefer to bookmark the page for easy access. Plus, the type on the printed version is pretty darn small!
The general rule of thumb that you hear is – “If in doubt, seek permission.”
I will do my best to help.